Officials trying to 'restore calm' at school where teachers arrested
L.A. Unified school board President Monica Garcia said Monday that she intended to vote to fire a second teacher accused of lewd actions against children at Miramonte Elementary School.
Garcia made her comment shortly after the adjournment of a closed-session school-board meeting during which L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy updated trustees on developments at Miramonte.
Deasy has decided to cancel school for Miramonte students on Tuesday and Wednesday while the district holds staff meetings. On Monday evening there will be a parents-only meeting at nearby Southeast Region High School #2. Miramonte is south of downtown Los Angeles in the unincorporated Florence-Firestone community.
“I’ll just say yes,” Garcia said in response to a question about whether she would vote to fire Martin Bernard Springer, 49, who is accused of fondling two second-graders in his class within the last three years. “I will support the superintendent’s recommendation.”
Garcia had just emerged, at about 10:30 a.m. from a private briefing and discussion that lasted just over an hour at the headquarters, just west of downtown, of the Los Angeles Unified School District. The meeting started late as officials waited for a quorum of four members. In the end, six of the seven trustees arrived to take part in the hastily called gathering.
In regard to firing Springer, Garcia added that she was speaking only for herself.
“There is a shared sense of deepest concern and urgency and a focus absolutely on the community at Miramonte and the rippling impact on the school district,” she said.
She also urged parents and school-district employees to aid both the police and the internal investigations.
Garcia also addressed concerns that Springer or any other teacher might face false accusations in the uproar over the arrest of the first teacher, who allegedly spoon-fed his semen to blindfolded students as part of what he called a “tasting game.”
“I’m concerned about helping a school survive a very unexpected and unprepared-for experience,” Garcia said. “So the violation of trust at any level is horrific.”
She said she understands that many parents have had positive experiences with the school and perhaps even with the accused, veteran teachers, who spent their entire teaching careers at Miramonte.
“What we are dealing with right now does challenge people to come forward and say what they know,” she said. “I know there’s a lot of pain, so if I’m a parent at that school and I may not be a victim…I’m hurting because what I knew about that school is being challenged.”
She added: “Any parent that is feeling that this can’t happen — that is a very normal response.”
Garcia also defended the investigations leading to the arrests: “We already have an 11-month investigation that has led to the arrest of two teachers. That is a reality.”
She said the district is doing “everything possible so that we can restore a learning environment, so that we can restore calm and focus, and that’s not present right now.”
In another development, attorneys representing Miramonte families are poised to submit claims for damages against the nation’s second-largest school system.
-- Howard Blume